FAIRHOPE – Hurricane Zeta did not hit Baldwin County as hard as Hurricane Sally the month before, but the storm surge wrecked piers and property along the Eastern Shore as well as inflicting other damage.
Zeta made landfall in Louisiana and again in Mississippi on Wednesday, Oct. 28, before moving into Alabama north of Mobile. The storm still had hurricane-force winds as it moved into Alabama, according to reports.
The hurricane’s storm surge was predicted to be four to six feet in Mobile Bay. The surge smashed many piers and swept up items along the Mobile Bay shoreline.
One structure that was damaged was the pier being rebuilt at the American Legion post in Fairhope.
The pier had been raised to be seven feet above the bay, but the surge still damaged the elevated structure, Legion member Steve Davis said.
Legion member said volunteers had been working for months to rebuild the pier and work was almost complete when the storm hit.
“We were three quarters of the way finished in there and Zeta decided she didn’t want us to finish apparently, so she took the rest of it out,” Davis said Friday. “It’s disappointing. Two more good weekends and we would have finished it up.”
He said Legion members discovered the damage after the storm.
“We’ve been up and down the beach collecting the majority of our pier back so we could put it back together, but we’re going to wait and see what this next storm down there is doing,” Davis said.
Volunteers have been working on the project for about two and a half months.
“We had volunteers working on weekends,” Davis said. “We had to stop in between because of high tides and storms and everything else that took place.”
Davis said part of the restoration did survive Zeta’s impact.
“Most of the pilings are in. It didn’t damage the new pilings we put in,” he said.
Davis said some of the old boards on the pier were going to be removed and used for other purposes. Zeta’s surge knocked off many of those boards. “It’s disheartening that it happened, but it kind of took it off for us,” he said.
The surge also piled sand at the base of the pier and around the post’s stage on the bayfront. Volunteer Phil Warren said volunteers have been working since the storm to clean the site.
When volunteers began cleaning, they noticed something else left by Zeta. When members checked the post picnic tables lined along the bay shore, they not only found that none had been lost, but that they had two more.
“All of ours were built the same,” Warren said. “When we looked, we found two more that were different. They must have been washed up from somewhere else.”
Davis said that despite the setbacks, post members and community volunteers will complete the pier.
“Most of these guys were in the military,” Davis said. “They don’t give up.”